Leonard Sweet on Ministerial Training

Leonard SweetReading a student’s paper tonight, I was struck by a statement Leonard Sweet (always thoughtful and provocative) made about the potential that we (particularly ministerial training institutions) might be training pastors for a ministry that no longer exists (found in his forward to Edward H. Hammett’s, “Reframing Spiritual Formation: Discipleship in an Unchurched Culture” [Macon, Ga: Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Incorporated, 2002.], p.x).

I have often wondered if we are failing to adequately prepare ministers for the kinds of issues and situations they will face. Perhaps we have landed on certain models of and content in ministerial education that fails to address the needs of our contemporary world.

Some questions in my mind:

  • Are we properly addressing the issues of healthy sexuality? Singleness and marriage?
  • Are we considering how the church of tomorrow can and should function to give proper worship to the Lord in contextually relevant ways?
  • Are we equipping students as disciples to make disciples rather than simply hoping they will be discipled and hoping along the way they might figure out how to disciple others?
  • Are we encouraging and developing theologically and imaginatively rich ways of “doing church” that are both rooted in the Church historic and universal, but culturally sensitive?
  • Are we training in ways of communication to further the modes and manner of effective discipleship and evangelism?

We often seem to get locked into one way of conceiving of how things should be done. It can be difficult as well when we who are educators might have served in ministry some years prior to our service as professors. This can at times mean we no longer think creatively or in culturally relevant ways because we are not being pushed to do so by “living in the trenches” of the pastoral vocation. On the other hand, sometimes ministers (and educators) can become consumed with the latest trendy ministry models and tools all the while still failing to effectively evangelize and disciple (themselves and others).

What are your thoughts?

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